Bloomberg reports that US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said a recent spike in avocado prices was an example of businesses “taking advantage” of the coronavirus pandemic and supply-chain disruptions to push up food costs.
He is in Dubai to promote US agricultural trade with the United Arab Emirates and neighbours such as Saudi Arabia.
Food prices have soared globally in the past year as economies recover from the pandemic. Producers and transporters are struggling to cope with the surge in demand, leading to huge delays moving goods through ports.
“I would raise some serious questions about that [recent cost increase of avocados in Chicago] given the fact it was obvious this was a short-term situation. There’s no justification for that. None,” he said.
“The question is whether all those increases are directly correlated to supply chain causes or whether people are taking advantage.
“There are some comments I’ve read, attributed to some folks in the agribusiness world, where they’re suggesting or at least intimating that this is an opportunity to raise prices beyond what is necessary to deal with supply-chain challenges they may face.”
Food prices should start to fall as the US economy normalises and supply problems are resolved, he said.
The government will allow imports of Mexican avocados to restart on Monday, ending a week-long suspension triggered by a threat against a US Department of Agriculture food inspector. Prices in Chicago surged during the ban.
While the economic rebound and logistical snarls are causing cost increases, not all of them are justified, said Vilsack.